Former Avon resident convicted of fraud, theft avoids prison time
Andrew Thacker will still serve 90 days in the county jail, five years of probation, and could pay over $400,000 in restitution
A former Avon man convicted of swindling a close friend out of $259,000 avoided what could have been a significant amount of prison time when his sentence was handed down Monday.
Andrew Thacker, a 72-year-old former Avon resident, will still serve 90 days in the Eagle County jail and five years of supervised probation, 5th Judicial District Court Judge Reed W. Owens ruled.
He will also pay restitution of at least the $259,000 owed to his victim and former friend Edward Koziol.
“There were opportunities for you, individually, along the way to make things right,” Judge Owens told Thacker on Monday. “At each opportunity, you chose yourself and your own self-interests over what was right for Mr. Koziol at the time.”
Prosecutors have filed a motion to add the interest this money has accrued in the six years since Koziol invested it with Thacker in 2015. This would bring total restitution to more than $400,000.
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Thacker’s defense attorneys, Gary Lozow and Dana Christiansen, have 45 days to file a response to this motion.
In a statement immediately prior to sentencing, Thacker said he cared deeply about paying full restitution to Koziol and regretted the harm he had done to him. Since his June conviction, Thacker said he had gotten a new job in Texas and was working to gather the restitution money.
“If I do lose my freedom, I won’t have that when I come back out,” Thacker said. “I don’t know what I’ll have.”
Thacker was charged with securities fraud and theft after he allegedly conned Koziol out of his $259,000 inheritance in a fraudulent investment and then used the money to cover personal expenses including a luxury car, according to testimony delivered during the trial.
The defense mounted a case that the investment opportunity promoted by Thacker to Koziol was actually a personal loan, giving him the freedom to use the money as he saw fit. Thacker’s lawyers also argued that Thacker unwittingly gave Koziol false information about the investment because Thacker himself had fallen victim to a high-level scam known as prime bank fraud.
The defense, prosecution and Judge Owens agreed that paying back the money owed to Koziol is paramount to achieving justice in this case. Owens ultimately ruled against prison time as he said this would likely make it more difficult for Thacker to come up with the money in a timely manner.
Colorado Senior Assistant Attorney General Jason Slothouber, one of two prosecutors on the case, argued hard for prison time, saying Thacker had been “demonstrably non-compliant” in turning financial information over to probation officers and collections investigators since the June verdict.
Thacker initially failed to disclose the existence of two trusts when asked about his financial assets and did not provide signed copies of his last two tax returns for proof of filing, Slothouber said.
White collar criminals like Thacker are let off easy too often, he said.
“If Mr. Thacker is put on probation, he will continue to do exactly what he has been doing,” Slothouber said. “He will continue to live as much of a luxury lifestyle as he can at Mr. Koziol’s expense.”
Despite promises to liquidate assets and make a significant down payment on the restitution at sentencing, Thacker came prepared with just $20,000. Thacker has not sold his home in a high-end gated community. He has not sold either of his two cars or anything from his art collection, which he estimated to be worth $800,000 in testimony made at trial.
The prosecution also read a victim statement in which Koziol wrote about the impact that Thacker’s actions had on his financial security and on his mental health.
Prison time, Slothouber argued, is the only “sufficient deterrent, sufficient punishment and sufficient incentive” left at the court’s disposal.
This attempt to “shake money loose” from Thacker via imprisonment would only have the opposite effect, Christiansen said.
Thacker has been working hard to pay Koziol back and came up with $20,000 in just a few months, Christiansen argued. He was unable to liquidate assets like the house or the car due to ongoing divorce proceedings with his wife.
Even if he could, he would still need somewhere to live and a car to get to work. Thacker took three pieces of art to a consignment shop in Texas, but the offer was too low to sell, Christiansen said.
The defense dispelled allegations surrounding the two trusts, saying one was full of “essentially worthless” stock and the other was a living trust for he and his wife that served as a function of their wills.
If granted probation, officers with the economic crimes unit would surely be able to “keep on him to make his payments,” Christiansen said.
“A lot of other judges might have sent you to (the Department of Corrections) under these circumstances,” Judge Owens told Thacker.
“I don’t think the Department of Corrections is a — it’s not a helpful sentence in getting Mr. Koziol paid back,” Owens said, but some jail time would hopefully send a message.
Lozow tried to negotiate with the judge to give Thacker 48 hours to get his affairs in order before being booked into the Eagle County jail. He also asked that Thacker be taken into custody in Texas, where he currently resides.
Judge Owens denied this request, saying that Thacker’s punishment needed to be immediate and jail time needed to be served in Eagle County. This, Owens said, is crucial to striking the right balance of punishment given that he allowed Thacker to avoid time in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Thacker’s defense attorneys can still file a 35(b) motion for reconsideration to petition for a reduction in jail time.
The defense revealed intentions to appeal the verdict of Thacker’s June trial, during which a jury found him guilty of securities fraud and theft, both Class 3 felonies.
The team filed a request for an “appeal bond,” which allows defendants to bond out of jail until their case can be heard in an appellate court. This request was denied by Judge Owens, as he said he needed more time to consider the motion.
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